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Real-Name Rail Ticketing System Fails to Foil Scalpers

Translated by Liu Peng
Web exclusive published on Jan 26
Original article:[

Despite the recent adoption of a new real-name ticketing system in Guangdong, scalpers continue to remain active and passengers are still having difficulty purchasing train tickets,
according to an Economic Observer reporter who visited Shenzhen's main railway station on the day the new measures were introduced.

In addition, passengers from Hong Kong also complained that they weren't able to use their identity cards to book tickets through the ticketing hotline. 

Though telephone bookings were accepted from 7am on January 24, China's Ministry of Railways (MoR) and the Guangzhou Railway Group (GRG), a corporatized local railway administration bureau that operates railways in Guangdong, Hunan and Hainan, launched the sale of tickets under the new system at 7am on January 25.

All passengers are now required to produce proof of identification when purchasing advance tickets. The new system is being introduced as a measure to reduce the roaring black market trade in tickets that has become a regular feature of the peak Chinese New Year travel period.
By forcing people to present their identification when purchasing tickets, the new system hopes to put a halt to the current situation in which scalpers resell tickets at inflated prices to travellers desperate to get home to spend Chinese New Year with their families. 

Passengers are able to book tickets ten days in advance either by phone, via train station ticketing offices or through ticket agencies.

The EO learned that the GRG has established 540 ticket agencies throughout the province and that passengers are able to buy tickets from either these agencies or at railway stations on presentation of their second-generation ID card. 

According to the regulations, passengers without a second-generation ID card can rely on 19 other kinds of identification, such as a first-generation or temporary ID card, to buy their tickets from 79 specially designated ticket outlets and all railway stations.

As a result, many passengers without second-generation ID cards, lost valuable time ferrying from one agency to another until they found a place that would accept their ID.

At Shenzhen railway station, a passenger from Hunan province surnamed Ouyang told the EO that he began dialling the special reservation hotline (95 105-160) from 7am on January 24 in an attempt to book a ticket on a train to Hunan departing on February 2, when he got through to an operator at 7.07am, all the tickets had already sold out. 

"There are a dozen of trains scheduled heading from Guangzhou to Changsha, capital of Hunan province, but it's hard to understand how all these tickets managed to sell out within a few minutes," he noted.

Recalling how it had only taken him 15 minutes to buy a ticket last year, Mr. Ouyang said "I don't understand why tickets are even more difficult to buy after the introduction of this real-name ticketing system."

Many passengers told our reporter that booking tickets through the automatised phone service generally took about three to five minutes to complete, however, after going through the rigmarole of entering all the details, it was often the case that passengers would be informed that tickets were no longer available.

An embarrassing flaw in the news system is visitors from Hong Kong are unable to book tickets with their identity papers. A Hong Kong resident surnamed Liu told the EO that he had began calling the hotline early on the morning of January
24, however, when he did get through, the automated voice informed him that he had entered an incorrect ID number. He tried several times, but each time was rejected.

The EO asked a Shenzhen railway station employee about the situation and he explained that according to regulations, Hong Kong residents like Mr Liu with a home return permit were able to buy tickets under the new real-name ticketing system, but due to certain problems with the telephone reservation system, they would not be able to book tickets over the phone.

He said the phone reservation system was only applicable to passengers with the mainland ID cards and that passengers with other kinds of identification should buy their ticket either the railway station or designated ticket agencies six days in advance.

"This problem is unlikely to be solved this year, and it's not something that our railway station is responsible for," he added.

At some ticket agencies, scalpers were still very active. Some scalpers brazenly tried to sell tickets to the reporter and other ticket-buyers in plain sight in the vicinity of a  ticketing outlet on Shenzhen's Cuizhu road.

"Depending on how hard they are to get, tickets are marked up anywhere between 100 and 200 yuan," one scalper told the reporter, adding that as long as a ticket-buyer provided his or her ID card numbers, he was able to help them purchase any ticket they wanted.

When questioned about the source of these tickets, he said he knew someone who worked in the railways. Though he also added,  "this year's commission fee is a little higher due to the complicated procedures of the real-name system."

The MoR estimated that 210 million passengers, up 9.5 percent from a year earlier, would travel over the 40-day Spring Festival rush period which officially begins on January 30.

Links and Sources
Zhuhai News: Image
Wikipedia: Home Return Permit

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